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New ATSIC Deputy Chairperson discusses his appointment and priorities for ATSIC.

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Monday 18 August 2003

Former agent says there are too many amateurs and not enough professionals doing intelligence work


MARK COLVIN: The board of the Aboriginal and Torre s Strait Islander Commission - ATSIC - has elected Lionel Quartermaine as its new Deputy Chairman. Mr Quartermaine, the 44-year-old Commissioner for Queensland North, will also be ATSIC's acting Chairman, after the Government suspended Geoff Clark and Deputy Chairman "Sugar" Ray Robinson resigned. 


Mr Quartermaine defeated the only woman on the board, Alison Anderson, who had been touted by some as the most likely to win the top job. 


Alexandra Kirk reports. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Alison Anderson, a 44-year-old Luritja woman from the community of Papunya in central Australia was one of the two favourites to take the top job - Acting Chair of ATSIC - after last week's suspension of Geoff Clark. 


The only female Commissioner, she took a swipe at both Geoff Clark and "Sugar" Ray Robinson this morning, ahead of ATSIC's board meeting, saying their actions directly led to the Government's decision to remove ATSIC's responsibility to fund indigenous organisations. 


ALISON ANDERSON: Absolutely, I think that it's been the leadership of ATSIC that's really brought about the separation of powers and the review. They've been very, very negative in their attitude and also attacking the Government. And we've got to understand that indigenous people are disillusioned out there in the peak body. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: That doesn't appear to have helped her election chances - losing to fellow 44-year-old Queensland North Commissioner Lionel Quartermaine 6-9 on preferences. After her loss, she took another swipe at Geoff Clark saying he's yesterday's man, part of the problem rather than the solution. 


ALISON ANDERSON: Absolutely. And, I think, you know, we've taken the right decision today, to elect Commissioner Quartermaine as our Deputy Chair, who will act as the Chair of ATSIC and I support him a hundred per cent. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Lionel Quartermaine says ATSIC needs to get its act together and regain the trust and confidence of indigenous communities, the wider Australian community and government. 


LIONEL QUARTERMAINE: One of our first aims is to re-establish a credible place at the table of the Government. We need to be at the table of the Government. If we're going to criticise the Government in any form we need to offer a solution.  


We need to be at the table. Some people may argue against that but unless we're going to change the face of indigenous Australia for health and education, we need to be at the table. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: So who's to blame for ATSIC's problems and the so-called "leadership crisis"? 


Lionel Quartermaine doesn't blame Geoff Clark. 


LIONEL QUARTERMAINE: We have ourselves to blame. We've got to take the blame. I mean, we can't blame people, we've got to blame ourselves. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: And he doesn't regret supporting Geoff Clark for chairman, late last year. 


LIONEL QUARTERMAINE: I mean, I voted for Geoff Clark. I mean, I can't turn around and say I regret it. I voted. But right now, as we speak, it's different. It's a whole different thing. 


If we are to go forward then what I commented at that stage is part of ATSIC history. But now, we're looking at the future of ATSIC, delivering and ensuring that the programs for indigenous people that State and Federal Government are responsible for must be held accountable. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: The new acting ATSIC Chair, who was elected to the ATSIC board just last year, says Geoff Clark's future is in the court's hands.  


What does he think of Mr Clark seeking to address the board meeting tomorrow? 


LIONEL QUARTERMAINE: If Geoff Clark, if the Board supports that Geoff Clark should address the board meeting then so be it. 


REPORTER: Would you personally vote for a resolution in support of Geoff Clark? 


LIONEL QUARTERMAINE: I support the Chair. 


REPORTER: But "the Chair" being the Chair-in-exile… 


LIONEL QUARTERMAINE: I support the Chair. 


REPORTER: …or the Chair… 


LIONEL QUARTERMAINE: I support the Chair. 


REPORTER: You're the Chair. 


LIONEL QUARTERMAINE: Well, I'm only Acting Chair. 


REPORTER: So, you support, you would support Geoff Clark in any kind of vote to have this whole decision overturned? 


LIONEL QUARTERMAINE: Well, it can't be overturned because the Minister has suspended him, so… 


REPORTER: The Australian Democrats have said they would be willing to listen to the Board if the Board was to ask them to block the Minister's suspension, which they can do in the Senate. 


LIONEL QUARTERMAINE: Well, that's entirely their call. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Mr Quartermaine says a treaty is not on his agenda but he'll be pursuing indigenous rights on health and education. 


LIONEL QUARTERMAINE: Our people are suffering. We've got our children still going to school, who still can't read or write. We've got our children going to school who can't even have a feed. We got indigenous people in overcrowding, we've got the health standard is on par with third world countries. That is my priority. 


MARK COLVIN: Acting ATSIC Chairman Lionel Quartermaine ending Alexandra Kirk's report.